Home Sweet Home – The P.a.y Centre Empowers Namibian Youths

25 Jun 2021

Daniela Diekmann

“Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.”– Kofi Annan

 As Thuba opens the gate for us, I can tell she’s smiling – although her face is covered by what has become the only too familiar mask, I can see her eyes blinking with excitement! The team welcomes us with kindness and tender smiles, as if we were old friends. As I step into the room, my glance catches the words written on a small canvas hanging against the back wall – “Home sweet home”. It looks oddly familiar and after a second or two I realise that these same words, my mom had put up in the kitchen in the home where I spent most of my teenage years. A phrase not unfamiliar to me; holding a meaning that was intricately woven into the fabric of the home I knew growing up.

Before the approaching laughter and chatter from outside calls me back, a last thought crosses my mind: how many children, wouldn’t associate meaning to this phrase? I bury the thought and follow thuba to the lunch area, where children and teens have gathered around the tables, there is chatter, laughter, and an overall atmosphere of happiness – the room is buzzing...           

Here, on the outskirts of Katutura, Thubaelihle Sibanda and her team have transformed a small piece of land into a haven that welcomes disadvantaged youths with open arms of opportunity. At Physically Active Youth Namibia (P.A.Y), the hope is to instill purpose and discipline through a model resting on three overarching pillars: to provide quality education, equip learners with life skills and encourage physically active lifestyles. But beyond this, it is a place where every afternoon anew, the dreams of more than 120 children and young adults are encouraged and carefully nurtured.

Following a nourishing lunch funded by the Gondwana Care Trust’s MealForTwo initiative, P.A.Y provides the children with various dynamic and purpose-driven after-school programmes including dancing, cycling, programming, and robotics, as well as science classes and compulsory chess classes, to name a few. These are led by volunteers, some of whom attended these after-school classes themselves, and now see this as a way of sowing into the next generation. On weekends, P.A.Y has motivated teams competing at tennis competitions, various cycling events, soccer matches, or life skill camps across Namibia.

As for many, if not every non-profit organisation however, the current times have meant even more difficulty in navigating already challenging and confronting circumstances. Without any international volunteers coming to the centre as well as lack of funding on all ends, much of the strategy which the team has worked on to ensure the longevity and eventual sustainability of the project, seems impossible to realise. Thuba, who herself has multiple streams of income to sustain herself, is discouraged by this. She maintains that the project is one which is sustainable and furthers the lives of these youths for years to come, even though it may seem that there are few immediately recognisable, everyday outcomes.

The stories of both Rafael Shilengitha and Melkesedek Hamutoko, who both regularly attended P.A.Y, tell of this possibility and emulate the personal experiences of various individuals who are part of the programme. While Rafael is completing his further tuition at the United World College in Norway, Melkesedek is realising his dream of becoming a pilot and is studying towards his Commercial Pilot’s License. Besides this, Melkesedek is also an avid and talented cyclist.

Upon a visit to P.A.Y in Katutura, one cannot help but think that this is where stories of success and achievement find their roots and will continue to be written. It is a place that, with little resources, has been transformed into a space of countless opportunities for this brilliantly talented and diverse youth, through the hands and hearts of a committed and wonderful team.

As I stand outside, waiting for everyone to make their way to their respective afternoon classes following their warm lunch, I notice a group of four young boys standing across from me. After I encourage them, they proudly show off their latest breaktime dance moves, accompanied by wholehearted laughter and innocent expressions that mirror a little heart delighting at the sweetest of life’s joys. I think of the canvas that hangs in the entrance hall and I realise that amongst the fragility that exists within the unhinged realities surrounding these youths, Thuba and her team work to give significance to a seemingly all-too-familiar phrase: Together they introduce another meaning of the word ‘home’ to a child’s heart by recognising passion and nurturing perspective, all within an environment so deeply and genuinely committed to the future of the children of Africa.

Thuba and her team are only one of the multiple projects supported by the Gondwana Care Trust that are committed to change the narrative of underprivileged Namibians. These various institutions are located across the country and amongst others include:

Khomas Homeless Shelter and Development Trust
Khomasdal, Windhoek

The shelter operates from Khomasdal Community Hall and looks after 80 homeless and vulnerable adults and children, providing them with homecooked meals on a daily basis. Gondwana Care Trust has provided various food stuffs to the shelter to prepare the meals.

Khaibasen Community Centre

The centre is in the informal settlement of Okahandja and offers pre-primary tuition to 80 children as well as provides meals to 100 to 150 kids every day. Not only do the kids who regularly attend the centre receive meals, but Paulina Kajandeka, founder, and manager, has also extended the feeding programme to the children living on the dumpsite and on the streets of Okahandja.

Kanono Combined School
Katima Mulilo District

This school was founded in 1961 and has over 460 learners who attend from Grade 0 to 9. As part of their curriculum, they offer I.C.T classes, which until last year was only a theory subject. Computer literacy is an incredibly important skill to have, and the school is one of the first ones in the region to offer this subject to learners.

Proud Himbas

The Proud Himba Foundation was founded in 2007 by Dallas Shoovaleka. What started with two children, has now expanded to a group of 28 children that are looked after on a regular basis. Beyond this, the foundation also assists the schools in the area as well as with the orphan feeding programme. The Proud Himba Foundation is also a beneficiary of the MealForTwo programme.

El Shaddai Centre

This centre supports 120 children and 30 adults from disadvantaged background, with nutritious meals every day. The onset of the Covid-19 crisis has seen an increase in the number of people visiting the centre however and numbers continue to increase. The centre is also supported via the MealForTwo programme.

To support the Gondwana Care Trust in extending a helping hand to the vulnerable members of our communities, visit our website via the below QR code or send a mail to caretrust(at)gcnam.com for more information.

Photos: Marlene Orffer & Daniela Diekmann


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